The Sanskrit word ASTAYA mean non-stealing.
If you’ve spent some time contemplating your own thoughts and words and actions around ahimsa/non-harming and satya/truth these past two weeks, you’ve likely made some interesting discoveries. At first glance, there may be blind confidence but if we are diligent in our practice, there are definitely ways in which we all harm and lie. Maybe not in obtuse ways, certainly we are good people here, but in subtle and potentially meaningful ways. I know this work is not easy so I appreciate the fact that you’re still with me. Let’s travel on!
Week three is an investigation of astaya/non-stealing. We will sweep aside the armed robbery the grand theft auto and get into the heart and soul of stealing. Stealing is taking what is not yours. Period. If it is not yours and you assume it, take it, deny yourself or another of it, manipulate to gain it or avoid it, et cetera, you are stealing.
Through examination, we find astaya is another step towards spiritual integrity. While ahimsa allows us to create a container of loving kindness and satya fills that container with honesty and respect, astaya allows us to interact with our world with healthy boundaries and responsible autonomy. Astaya allows us to clarify what is truly ours and to discern what actually belongs to another be it possessions, rights, opportunities, accomplishments, resources, lessons, and on and on.
In her book “The Yamas and Niyamas”, Deb Adele notes that we steal from others, the earth, our future and ourselves. Any interaction with ourselves or another has to potential to be muddy and messy or clean and respectful depending on how we express our individuality.
Let’s face it. With 8 billion people on this planet, we are going to bump into each other. In fact, that might just be the point of being here. Riding this rock is all about becoming a better person and the folks that push our buttons are quite simply our teachers. Our interactions with each other are the life lessons that we are divinely offered for our growth and development. That said, I have found that clear boundaries (aka astaya) are key to living in joyful relationship or at least in comfortable relationship with others.
Here are three ways in which astaya challenges me to examine my human habits and tendencies:
“Non-stealing means allowing others to have opinions even if they are different than mine or outright wrong.”
Yup, I’m going right for the jugular here [cue wicked laughter]. This one is personal. If you know me you understand. I know a lot of stuff. I’ve read a ton of books and studied all kinds of things. In addition, I consider myself open minded and curious about other points of view. One would think that those two qualities would combine in such a way that others would be interested and maybe even excited to engage in intellectual with me. But the truth is that my knowledge and my openness sometimes mix together for a lovely offering of know-it-all-ness. Um, not fun for anyone. And when I reflect on these situations, my heart heavies with disappointment.
Focusing my heart and mind on asteya has helped me reframe my intention and shift my behavior.
My mantra: It’s theirs. Let them have it.
My self-talk sounds like this: “Please Tracy, don’t steal their human right to have a personal opinion by correcting or judging. After all, we all have a right to what we think. And maybe, just maybe, I’m the one that’s wrong.” As my boyfriend Bill says, “That’s why they make so many different colored cars.”
There might be an opportunity to share my viewpoint in a way that supports the other…or there might not be. My most respectful offering to others when they share disagreeable information is an honest and compassionate statement that keeps me from getting tangled up. “I hear you” sometimes works. I don’t nail it every time but I’m getting better.
“Non-stealing means allowing others to express and create and share and shine in every way they would like to.”
This is a sensitive subject for many yoga teachers. Even within the Namaste world of yoga, there is competition and gossip and fear of the other. It’s a gritty edge that any honest yogi would admit to feeling now and then. Cooperation sounds great but competition is the human ego’s way of protecting and self-serving. And with so many yoga teachers and so many yoga studios and so much yoga, yoga, yoga now available, the feeling of competition hangs in the air like the smog over a city.
Competition clouds and pollutes and all who breathe the air feel the impact. When we compete against another, we are stealing the right of the other. The truth is we are all here to serve and to create. Each of us has a purpose to fulfill. It is by Divine design that each and every one of us is here now. Which means that
a) it’s going to take each and every one of us doing our best and creating our all for the world to work the way it’s supposed and
b) there’s room and space and enough of whatever for each of us to offer all that we have to give and to create all that we are inspired to create.
Folks, it’s going to take all of us doing all we can to heal this world. I’m not going to be able to do it all alone. I’m hoping that everyone else will be busy helping.
So my mantra: Lift each other up. There’s room for everyone.
When we appreciate the ‘we’ is the ‘me’ then the edge of competition softens and cooperation becomes a little easier. Together we are better.
“Non-stealing means allowing others to change and grow and choose and become…or not.”
One of the most important tasks I have undertaken in the name of personal growth and development is practicing of releasing my stories and letting go of my limiting beliefs about myself. There’s no way we can grow to become anything beyond who we are today unless we examine our ways and untangle ourselves from the past. That means examining our personal stories and beliefs, determining their impact or limits and discerning what serves and what fails to support.
It’s like cleaning out the closet. You need to pick up every piece of apparel and decide “Does this still fit?” “Do I like wearing it?” “Is this comfortable and stylish and ME?” No one else can do this for us. It’s a personal and intimate task so certainly best done by our own selves and for our own selves. And how miserable would it be for someone else to go through the piles of ‘no’s…or the pile of ‘yes’s!...and force us to keep or wear or BE that which we decided we were done with! And yet it is so very human to interact with the other in a way the fails to respect their choice to keep a story that we feel they should be done with…or to leave a story that we are certain serves them.
In essence, it is a product of our own human nature to control those we love. Acknowledge that and work from that place to respect, to honor and to release…no more stealing. Our parents, our children, our partners, our co-workers can live their own lives.
Try this mantra: My life is my choice. His/Her life is his/her choice. Let them change. Let them not change.
Let them live their way. Love them anyway. Love them despite their choices and because of their choices.
The truth is this: Me living my life is a full time job. I honestly don’t have time to take on their life. And more often than not, when I stop stealing their life power and focus on managing my own, the relationship relaxes. I see that we get along just fine. There’s space for everyone to be themselves. Honestly, there is.
Oh, I could go on but I promised three and that’s three! And I’d like to not steal our own discovery and investigation! I wish you well in your contemplative practice on asteya.